Confucius said of Gongye Chang: “He would make a good husband. Although he has spent time in prison, he was innocent.” He gave him his daughter’s hand in marriage.
Book 5 of the Analects starts on an intriguing note, with Confucius giving his daughter away in marriage to a convicted criminal.
Confucius didn’t have much respect for the legal code and the draconian punishments it enforced on offenders. Even so, it must have been a brave decision on his part to flout social convention by giving his daughter away to a man with a criminal record.
We don’t know why Gongye Chang was sent to prison or anything else about him for that matter, unless you count some rather fanciful tales that grew up around his alleged ability to understand the language of birds and some animals.
Then again, we know even less about Confucius’s daughter – not even her name. Indeed, we don’t know that much about Confucius’s family life at all, except that he married at the age of nineteen a woman called Qiguan Shi (亓官氏), who subsequently bore him a son called Boyu (伯魚) and possibly two daughters, one of whom probably died at an early age.
Apparently, Confucius didn’t have a particularly happy marriage, and he is believed to have divorced his wife later on. He was also said to have had a rather distant relationship with his son as well.
So much for Confucian family values!